National

Queen guitarist Brian May latest to sign anti-Henoko base petition as organizer readies for White House rally

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

Legendary Queen guitarist Brian May became the latest celebrity to weigh in Sunday on controversial construction work associated with the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture, a project that opponents say will endanger rare coral species.

May took to social media to urge more people to sign a petition calling on U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to intervene in the controversial relocation of the U.S. military base.

“URGENT !!! URGENT !!! PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION to save a beautiful coral reef and irreplaceable eco-system, threatened by USA extending an airbase,” May wrote on Twitter to his nearly 840,000 followers.

The brainchild of Okinawan-Hawaiian activist Robert Kajiwara, 32, the petition, titled “Stop the landfill of Henoko/Oura Bay until a referendum can be held in Okinawa,” was created using the White House’s “We the People” petition website.

Japan and the United States have been seeking to relocate the Futenma base from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less populated coastal district of Henoko in Nago. The Japanese government recently began full-fledged landfill work as part of the relocation plan despite persistent local opposition.

An Okinawa prefectural referendum on the base transfer plan will be held Feb. 24, with Gov. Denny Tamaki hoping it will be a chance to further demonstrate Okinawa’s opposition.

The petition was due to close Monday, but Kajiwara said in a tweet Sunday that it will remain open until the Trump administration responds.

“Everyone, I have received notification that the petition will remain OPEN until the White House provides a response! Let’s get as many signatures as possible in order to protect Henoko!” he wrote.

Kajiwara also wrote that he had arrived in Washington for a planned news conference and rally in front of the White House scheduled for Monday.

Announcing the rally late last month, Kajiwara said he hoped it would “send a message to Washington, D.C.”

“We are hoping President Trump will take the issue at Henoko seriously and hope he will order at least a temporary halt on the landfill until the referendum,” he said.

Kajiwara was also quoted as saying that he had “received confirmation” that a letter he had written to Trump had arrived at the White House, and that similar letters had been sent to more than 100 top U.S. officials and lawmakers including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The petition, which garnered the support of Tamaki and various Japanese celebrities, reached 100,000 signatures within 10 days of its creation on Dec. 8, surpassing the requirement for a response by the White House.

Japan-based celebrities such as model and actress Rola and pop star Ryuchell, who hails from Okinawa, have raised awareness about the petition via their social media accounts.

On her Instagram account, which has some 5.2 million followers, Rola said that the reclamation of Okinawa’s beautiful sea could be stopped if people came together, and called for their messages to be delivered to the White House.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5